The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, said yesterday that the Nigerian judiciary, to a large extent, is independent in conducting its affairs and taking decisions on matters before it without any external interference.
Muhammad stated this yesterday in Abuja at a special session of the Supreme Court marking the 2019/2020 Legal Year.
“The Nigerian judiciary, to a large extent, is independent in conducting its affairs and taking decisions on matters before it without any extraneous influence.
“At the Supreme Court, like I have always said, we are totally independent in the way we conduct our affairs, especially judgments. We don’t pander to anybody’s whims and caprices. If there is any deity to be feared, it is Almighty God.
“We will never be subservient to anybody, no matter his position in the society.”
However, he said totally independent without financial autonomy a development he said, begs for funds to run its office as it happens currently.
“Be that as it may, when we assess the judiciary from the financial perspective, how free can we say we are?
“It is like saying a cow is free to graze about in the meadow but at the same time, tying it firmly to a tree. Where is the freedom?”
“The annual budget of the judiciary is still a far cry from what it ought to be.
The CJN appealed to governments at all levels to “free the judiciary from the financial bondage it has been subjected to over the years.”
“I make bold to say that the salaries of judicial officers in Nigeria are still far from an ideal package to take home.
“Effort should be made by the relevant authorities to increase the salary and also work out measures to improve the welfare package of judicial officers, especially after retirement.
“Let it not just said to be independent but should, in words and actions, be seen to be truly independent. We would not like to negotiate our financial independence under any guise,” he said.
In his remarks, the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Paul Usoro decried the poor pay of judicial officers.
“We betray our vaunted fight against corruption in the judiciary and public sector when we remunerate our judicial and public officers most inadequately as we currently do,” he said.
He appealed to stakeholders to review upward the compensation packages of the judicial officers at all levels as a step towards eliminating corruption in the judiciary.
Usoro similarly tasked the judiciary not to relent on effort to rid itself of any corrupt element amongst them.
In doing so, he urged the judiciary to deploy the self-regulating processes within the National Judicial Commission (NJC) and in line with constitutional provisions.
A major highpoint of the event was the conferment of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) titles 38 legal practitioners.
Among the recipients were the solicitor-general of the federation, Dayo Apata and Lagos-based human rights activist, Ebun-olu Adegboruwa.
Others were the wife of a Justice of the Supreme Court, Adedoyin Rhodes-Vivour, Abdullahi Haruna, Manga Nuruddeen, John Onuegbulam Asoluka, Adedokun Makinde, Daniel Enwelum, Emmanuel Oyebanji, Tuduru Ede, Abdul Ajana and Ama Etuwewe and Oladipo Olasope.
Some other beneficiaries were Leslie Nylander, Olusegun Fowowe, Andrew Hutton, Olukayode Enitan, Paul Ogbole, Olaniyi Olopade, Samuel Agweh, Olusegun Jolaawo, Prof. Alhponsus Alubo, Ayo Asala, Abiodun Olatunji, Olumide Aju, Chimezie Ihekweazu and Prof. Mamman Lawan.
The list also included Uchefula Chukwumaeze, Usman Sule, Safiya Badamasi, Echezona Etiaba, Godwin Omoaka, Emeka Ozoani, Alexander Ejesieme, Jephthah Njikonye, Aihkunegbe Malik, Alhassan Umar and Oyetola Atoyebi, among others.
With ThisDay, TheCable, NAN reports